Would you ride in the wings of an airplane? By the year 2040, you might have the opportunity to speed through the air on the world’s most fuel-efficient jet doing just that. KLM, a Dutch airline, has developed a plane fondly known as the Flying V that will hold cargo, passengers, and fuel in its wings instead of in the body of the plane. While such a dramatic shift might be a little disconcerting to the uninitiated, it has the potential to change airplane fuel efficiency and the picture of flying for good.
What is the Flying V airplane?
The Flying V is an aptly-named brand new type of aircraft that looks like an enormous “V.” Unlike current airplanes, there is no inner metal tube with small windows and no separate wide-reaching wings; the Flying V has co-opted the wings of the plane to do more than direct and lift the aircraft. By transforming the wings of the airplane to hold cargo, seat passengers, and transport fuel, this new airplane may revolutionize the flight industry and make flying more sustainable and potentially more affordable.
The idea for the Flying V airplane was first sketched out by Justus Benad when he was studying at Berlin’s Technical University. Delft Technical University in the Netherlands grabbed onto the idea, and they are now partnering with KLM airlines to make this idea a fuel-saving reality.
What are the benefits of the Flying V airplane?
Many of the statistics of the Flying V are the same as the Airbus A350, the current winner of the fuel efficiency plane race. Both planes have the capacity to carry 314 passengers and 1722 square feet (160 square meters) of cargo. The wingspan of the Flying V will be the same as the Airbus A350, giving airports and airlines an easy way to transition into using the new aircraft when it hits the market. However, the big difference lies in fuel efficiency. Long-distance flights will be more sustainable in the Flying V because the aircraft will have less surface area overall, meaning less resistance and less fuel. The Flying V will also use electric turbofans, making it even more fuel-efficient and sustainable.
Why does airplane fuel efficiency matter?
One of the major reasons consumers and engineers alike are pushing for more fuel efficiency in airplanes is an understandable one: price. Oil is expensive, and if a plane can fly from point A to point B using less fuel, the airline saves money; in turn, the consumer should save money, too. Additionally, less fuel usage means lower CO2 emissions and a healthier planet for everyone. This is one of the motivations behind the Dutch KLM airline’s focus on the Flying V: by 2030, the country plans to have reduced their aviation-related carbon emissions by 30%. Currently, airline travel contributes roughly 2% of the world’s carbon emissions; that percentage is expected to grow unless major changes are made. Companies and governments across the world are working to reduce carbon emissions from airplanes: in addition to the Flying V, airplanes like the A380 Airbus have drastically reduced their carbon emissions, making flying even more environmentally friendly than driving a hybrid car.
When can you ride in a Flying V?
Its creators hope that the Flying V will be ready to test in October 2019, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be seeing them at your local airport just yet. After initial stability tests, KLM will continue testing and tweaking to make the Flying V safe and successful. If all goes well, the Flying V hopes to be in production and ready to launch by 2040.